Home Sport Springboks will stick to their World Cup-winning formula

Springboks will stick to their World Cup-winning formula

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Just who plays at Loftus next Saturday and who is off to New Zealand will be revealed on Tuesday when Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber names his team to play the Wallabies.

Bernard Foley of Australia tries to break the Springboks’ defence during their 2019 meeting in the Rugby Championship. Picture: Kim Ludbrook, EPA-EFE via Backpagepix

THIS time four years ago a Springboks team beat Australia 35-17 at Ellis Park while in Wellington, New Zealand, another Springbok team was preparing for a match a week later against the All Blacks.

That Bok team drew 16-16 in a famous result. That fortnight of positive results in the Rugby Championship was the product of months of planning by Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber and it was the springboard for a magnificent seven weeks at the World Cup in Japan.

This year, Erasmus and Nienaber are hoping for déjà vu. Their thinking is that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, and so they are spreading their talent across two teams for this year’s Rugby Championship.

One will play the Wallabies in Pretoria on Saturday and the other will be in Auckland preparing for the following week’s match against the All Blacks.

Nienaber has confirmed that the two Bok teams will be of equal strength, as was the case in 2019. This is shrewd because if either of the teams loses, it can be argued that it was not a full-strength team.

But each side will have enough of the ultimate first-choice players to give them a good chance of winning.

Last week, Nienaber pointed out how the team he used against Australia in 2019, a supposedly weaker side, contained the following players who started in the World Cup final a few months later — Bongi Mbonambi, Tendai Mtawarira, Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager, Pieter-steph du Toit and Makazole Mapimpi.

The balance of the 2019 World Cup final team played in the All Blacks game. Nienaber’s point is that the Boks have sufficient quality in depth to spread their resources across two Championship games and stand a good chance of winning.

Just who plays at Loftus next Saturday and who is off to New Zealand will be revealed on Tuesday when Nienaber names his team to play the Wallabies. The other squad will fly out on the same day.

That gives the squad for New Zealand well over a week to get over jet lag and plot the downfall of the All Blacks. It was a masterstroke in 2019. In that game, the Boks were behind for three-quarters of the game and then had the legs to finish strongly and snatch a 16-16 draw.

Nienaber will be careful to select a side that can weather an expected onslaught from the Australians on Saturday. It is Eddie Jones’s first match in charge of the Wallabies for 17 years and he will want people to know he is back.

In-between his stints as coach of the country of his birth, he has coached Japan and, latterly, England.

Jones, though, is playing the same game as Nienaber. According to the Australian press, he is talking about a two-squad system for the Rugby Championship. Each country plays just four games in this shortened Championship, as is always the case in a World Cup year, and it is all about boxing clever.

Each coach knows he has to get the balance right between building winning momentum and confidence and not giving away too much before the World Cup itself, plus using each game to test depth.

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